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Civil Rights Group Sues ‘Whites Only’ Cemetery in Texas

The nation's foremost Latino civil rights organization is suing a cemetery association in South Texas because a widow alleges the caretaker refused to take her husband's ashes because he was Mexican.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, which alleges the Normanna Cemetery Association has historically been a "Whites Only" cemetery, turning away Latino and African American requests for decades.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to end the discriminatory practices and open the cemetery to people of color and immigrants.

"Segregated cemeteries were part of an architecture of discrimination against Latinos in Texas," said Marisa Bono, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel, wrote in a press release. "We look forward to closing this shameful chapter in our state's history."

Google Street View of the San Domingo Cemetery in Normanna, Texas from 2009.
Google Street View of the San Domingo Cemetery in Normanna, Texas from 2009. Google Street View

The Normanna Cemetery Association was not available for comment.

Dorothy Barrera said she took the ashes of her husband of 44 years, Pedro Barrera, to the San Domingo Cemetery in February. She said the caretaker turned her away and allegedly told her to "go up the road and bury him with the n-gg--s and Mexicans."

According to MALDEF, the Normanna Cemetery Association has still not lifted its ban on accepting non-white remains. And Barrera has still not buried her husband's ashes.

According to the complaint, the only gravestone in the San Domingo Cemetery with a Spanish surname, dated 1910, is separated from the rest of the gravestones with a chain-link fence.

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